Fear of fraud has a big effect on response levels to commercial mail, known to most of us as spam. So what the world needs is a "trusted sender" program to assure customers that they won't get ripped off when they respond to email offers.
Step forward TRUSTe, best known for its Web site privacy scheme, which has launched an "email certification and seal program". Microsoft and Doubleclick will beta test the program, a digitally signed stamp which certifies the email is genuine. Customers can easily opt-out of the spam and/or complain to TRUSTe about privacy concerns, according to the scheme's backers.
The program will also provide ISPs with a means to control "irresponsible" email flooding their servers, the backers of the scheme claim.
We think theyre wrong: the prevalence of open spam relays due to lax security at ISPs is well documented and will continue to allow the unscrupulous to send spam messages without the hassle of dealing with bounced messages. If they can't get that right how can ISPs be expected to correctly implement a filter that throws out commercial email without a seal?
If the scheme is a success, spammers will find a way to disguise their messages so that they appear genuine. We'll all get just as much spam as before, but some of it will be digitally signed. ®